Jury Duty


Yesterday I had jury duty – another Colorado first. I went expecting the same horrible conditions that we had in New York as jurors. That is, a dirty, windowless room with poor lighting.

But not here. The jury waiting rooms had windows! Clean windows – so you could see outside! There was good lighting. And just the right amount of info about what was going to happen. Plus vending machines with soda and snacks! This is how the real world is. New York is another planet.

Best of all, once the various cases on the docket for the day called their jury pool, the rest of us were dismissed for the day! At 9:30 a.m.!! I felt like I had been let out of school for the summer!

Now let’s remember for a minute how it was in New York. The airless room. The hostile clerks. The grumpy guards. The bizarre other jurors. Not to be too judgmental. But it certainly was not an advertisement for our justice system.

The worst experiences I had were when I lived in Brooklyn Heights and was called to serve in the Brooklyn courts. To begin with they took our fingerprints. I have never understood why. Since I didn’t plan to every do anything illegible, I let it happen. But it disconcerted me.

Then there were my fellow jurors. Back in those days one served for two weeks, which turned out to be 5 and ½ days if you never got on a jury. And I never did get on a jury. So over the course of the week, you got to know the rest of the jury pool pretty well.

For instance, there was the guy who didn’t trust anyone with a beard. Yes I’m serious. And there were the people who had relatives who worked for the city. Initially they would say very proudly, when asked – and we were always asked because most of the cases were people suing the city – they would say (for instance) “Yes my husband is a cop and my dad and brothers and uncles are firemen.”

However once they realized they would never get on a jury because they were related to city employees, they lied. To a person. Time and again.

There was the inevitable question about what newspaper you read. All but two of us always said “the Daily News” or “the Post.” The two who didn’t say one of those were a young man and, natch, me.  We each read the Times. Until he tuned in to how that went over with the attorneys and said “the Post” and got on a jury.

The one thing about how awful the setting was, was that everyone was desperate to serve on a jury and get out of the waiting room. Which is why people started lying, I believe. And we were BORED. Nothing more boring then sitting around during endless voir dires and listening to other people answering the attorneys’ questions.

I never lied because, initially, I wanted to believe that the system worked and then, after three days, I just wanted to be dismissed. By telling the truth about what paper I read, I knew I would never be chosen in insular Brooklyn.

One day I came close, however, to being selected until an attorney asked each of us undergoing questioning if we were natives of Brooklyn. Well, it so happens I was born in Brooklyn, Iowa and so when he got to me, I said “yes but…Iowa.” The court broke into laughter which the judge sternly stopped with his gavel. “I understand there’s a Brooklyn in Michigan, too,” he said and everyone shut up. And I was dismissed. Born in the wrong Brooklyn. Read the Times. Definitely NOT jury material.